Crippled businesses welcome ‘lifeline’ measures in recovery plan

Business leaders say devil will be in the detail of State’s €3.6bn package of supports

Chambers Ireland said the measures were “broadly positive” in terms of getting businesses trading again.

Chambers Ireland said the measures were “broadly positive” in terms of getting businesses trading again.

 

The Government’s €3.6 billion package of measures to boost the economy as it emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic has been described as a relief and lifeline by businesses that have spent more than a year struggling to survive the crisis.

Chambers Ireland chief executive Ian Talbot said the measures were “broadly positive” and would provide certainty in the short term, although he and many of his industry colleagues insisted the devil would be in the detail.

“The pandemic and its consequences are still very much with us,” he said. “This will allow employers to plan for a return to trading and help restore the economic health of their businesses.

“The €915 million we will receive through the European Union’s recovery-and-resilience facility will also be an important avenue for rebuilding our national and local economies. Sustainability must be at the centre of this process.

“This will help to develop social and economic resilience and put Ireland in a better place to face future challenges.”

However, Mr Talbot added that it would be important for the Government to target small towns across the State with specific recovery measures.

“As we focus on renewal and the rebuilding of our economy, ambition must be evident in delivering a recovery that is balanced and provides for all parts of the island,” he said.

‘Crucial lifeline’

Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy said many businesses would continue to struggle to return to pre-Covid levels of activity for some time.

“Financial support schemes have represented a crucial lifeline over the course of the pandemic and will continue to do so over the coming months,” he said. “It is positive that Government has committed to a tapering off of the schemes rather than an abrupt cliff-edge termination.

“Focus must now turn to ensuring the activation of the labour market and safely returning workers to the workplace as swiftly as possible.”

Meanwhile, John McGrane, executive director of the Family Business Network, said the continuation of the 9 per cent VAT rate for tourism businesses would provide “the breathing space” for family-run hotels and restaurants.

Irish Tourism Industry Confederation chief executive Eoghan O’Mara Walsh said the plan “adds further support to a beleaguered industry who can now turn thoughts from survival to revival”.

ITIC did warn that international tourism would be slow to recover and the domestic market would need to be maximised this year.

Mr O’Mara Walsh added: “The staycation flop that was the stay and spend scheme will need to be relaunched this autumn as a consumer friendly scheme that will benefit the public and tourism and hospitality industry alike.”

Irish Hotels Federation president Elaina Fitzgerald Kane welcomed in particular the retention of business and employment supports including the employment wage subsidy scheme, the 9 per cent tourism VAT rate, and the Covid restrictions support scheme.

She said hoteliers had already experienced “nothing short of a catastrophic financial shock” from the pandemic with months of prolonged closure and partial reopening.

She welcomed the return of non-essential travel on July 19th as “an important step” in the restoration of international connectivity, and “the recognition of tourism as a very significant employer”.

However, Capt Evan Cullen, president of the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association, said the organisation was “very disappointed” with the decision to wind down the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) with so many pilots facing a long road back to work due to the crippling of the tourism sector.

“We’re very disappointed the Government hasn’t done enough for aviation, in terms of opening up to allow us work, or to maintain the PUP for pilots that we believe will be laid off during the forthcoming winter,” he said.

Elsewhere, Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the Licensed Vintners Association, said the group was “very pleased” with the plan. “We are pleased that many of our asks in terms of supports are provided for in the plan,” he said.

“We firmly believe that these supports will have to remain in place for as long as there are any public-health restrictions on our sector. We are now looking forward to working with the Government to facilitate unrestricted trading as rapidly as the public-health situation allows.”

Tapering

“We welcome the extension of the commercial rates waiver in its current form, increased funding for upskilling and further education, particularly in the online space,” he said.

“The announcement of a new business resumption scheme will be good news for small firms with significantly reduced turnover as a result of public-health restrictions and will allow them the space to reopen.”

Construction Industry Federation director general Tom Parlon said the success of the plan would depend on the construction industry.

“The implementation of the plan must see more focus on supporting construction companies to upskill, develop and invest so as to meet the demands of this plan.

“Covid-19 has resulted in uncertainty in the pipeline of projects, making proper long-term planning and investment for construction companies difficult.”